Thursday, May 17, 2007

Two Debates: Part I: Rest without the West

First, my apologies to readers of TWR for the delays in posting. We are once again in that magical season of the final push of putting together yet another issue of The National Interest. And in the following two weeks, I will be on the road again--to the Balkans and then to Britain.

But I wanted to call your attention to two debates in the forthcoming issue.

The first is whether or not a new global paradigm is developing--one which is based neither on alignment with or opposition to the United States but instead on ignoring America, routing around us. UC Berkeley's Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner and Steven Weber argue:

"By preferentially deepening their own ties amongst themselves, and in so doing, loosening relatively the ties that bind them to international systems centered in the West, rising powers are building an alternative system of international politics whose endpoint is neither conflict nor assimilation with the West. It is to make the West, and American power in particular, increasingly irrelevant.

"What is emerging is a “World Without the West.” This world rests on a rapid deepening of interconnectivity within the developing world—in flows of goods, money, people and ideas—that is surprisingly autonomous from Western control, resulting in the development of a new, parallel international system, with its own distinctive set of rules, institutions, and currencies of power."

One of the things they point to is that "Though global trade has been increasing as a whole, the twenty largest and wealthiest countries in the developing world are, as a whole, preferentially trading with the rising powers that lead the pack—China, India, Russia and Brazil. And the rate at which they are doing so is rising every year. The critical fact here is that this deepening of interconnectivity in the World Without the West is well in excess of what standard economic models of trade (the gravity model) would predict."

They also argue that a neo-Westphalian system is in the works: "The bargain here is simple and straightforward: Sovereign states are empowered to set the terms of the relationship inside their borders between the government and the governed. They then deal with each other externally in a market setting and recognize no real rights or obligations other than to fulfill agreed contracts. International institutions have no legitimate business other than to serve and facilitate these ends."

So, is this the shape of the world to come?

The question about any new system that sidelines the West is who will provide the maritime security. There is no necessary reason why the rest of the world cannot manage security needs effectively without the United States, but there will be security needs that the rest of the world will have to manage.
An interesting question is extent to which, say with energy, the shift will be back to land transport. That seems to be China's policy, get more pipelines and to pay the costs to build them in order to get those guarantees.
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